Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Won a Fight and All I Got Was This Bloated, Belated Blog Post

So let's get this out of the way: on Sunday, 10/3, Jonathan Moreland defeated Ryan Madden by a unanimous decision in front of TV cameras and a packed Allston gym for part two of NESN's "Boston vs. the World" series.

Now while most anyone reading this already heard the results from me weeks ago, I wanted to wait to blog about it until I could upload the telecast. But this week I learned that the tape delay is not going to air until November and so now I'm awkwardly fumbling to tie together the play-by-play from some piecemeal, fading memories. After all, even immediately after the fight it's a bit tough to give a detailed, first-hand account when you're the one actually in the squared circle.

So until I come through with "Plan A" and am able to post the fight, I'm left just with some high-level musings - perhaps the most important being that this was one of the most "natural" feeling fights I've ever had.

With weigh-ins at 2 p.m. and fights starting at 4, I was left with the awkward task of waking up and killing a few hours around my apartment, all the while wearing three layers of sweats, not expending any energy (especially no nervous energy) and not eating or drinking anything. Fortunately, my years of boxing have made these periods of time routine and almost Zen-like: slipping on my "fight night" long underwear, sweats and hoodie; neatly packing my banana, Powerbar and ziplock baggie of wheat pasta for after the weigh-in; taking some ibuprofen and stretching out; syncing my iPod and spacing out to a mellow playlist; and, most importantly, pre-determining where I'll have my "fat kid" meal after the fight.

I took a bus to the venue and waited to weigh in. Same-day weigh-ins are always a little spooky - the empty building waiting for the crowd to trickle in, silent speakers and random organizers scrambling to make last arrangements before the doors open...and you just sitting there, wearing too many layers and unable to really do anything but try to relax until you step on the scale.

I weighed in at 155, which, frankly, was annoying. Not only did I not need to cut weight the night before/day of (at all - in the slightest) but if I put in a little time at the sauna 24 hours earlier, I could have easily made 152. But hindsight's 50/50 and I felt 100% strong and fresh on the scales, so there was no apprehension as I idled in the locker room, had my hands wrapped and warmed up.

Since my gym (Boston Boxing) was hosting the event, my trainer was more than preoccupied. I had a trainer from a gym we're close with (the good folks at Nonantum Boxing) wrap my hands, and one of our assistant trainers held pads and helped warm me up. Frankly, the way the past months have gone, I wasn't thrown off by the different faces involved in my pre-fight routine.

As mentioned earlier, the fight itself was a bit of a blur. Given that my opponent had a few inches height advantage on me and trained with a gym that produces very, very technically skilled fighters, I expected a healthy dose of jabs and straight punches, and didn't think he'd forfeit the center of the ring without a fight.

Not only was I expecting this, but given my style, I was hoping for it. And sure enough, it's exactly what I got.

The opening minute of the bout looked like more of a catch drill than a traditional feeling-out period. Both of us wanted to control the center of the ring, but both of us also wanted to establish our jabs. Rather than always "getting off first," I found myself with the opportunity to "always finish last," whether it be simply doubling up my jab, throwing 3-2-3's after parrying, or simply stepping in behind a jab, shortening my arms and flurrying. By the end of the round, I knew that so long as I stayed tight and didn't get sloppy, I'd be able to fight my fight and better control the bout.

I made Round 2 much more of a fight - not a brawl, mind you, but I came out of my corner far more aggressive and threw"with bad intentions" more then the first round. I was able to control the center of the ring as well as the pace of the fight, keeping my distance with jabs but hiding behind a healthy dose of lead 2's (many landing) and using them to setup step-overs and flurries. With a tight guard and some strategic tie-ups (and maybe, just maybe a wee bit of holding) on my part, these flurries stayed one-sided, as I kept my opponent frustrated and unable to exchange.

The third round is where things get fuzzy - not because my memory is fuzzy, but because it was an almost surreal, out-of-body experience. I was in my element, slipping, moving and flurrying in a round that was equal parts Hopkins and Hagler. It was natural and pure to the point that - in retrospect - it was seemingly effortless. As I began to time my opponent, everything else fell into place. I threw first, landed last, tied him up and kept him off balance with different steps and combinations. Even when I caught myself leaning in or bending too much at the waist, I'd keep my base sound and throw punches from these different angles, turning my movements into a beautifully awkward yet somehow coordinated offensive.

Some people call it the fastest three minutes in sports. Well that day, it was the fastest and most relaxed, the most natural and automatic and strangely efficient round I can remember putting together. And yes I feel comfortable saying this in the face of me not remembering details and really only being able to say with certainty that "I went out there and boxed well." Which I guess is also the best and most telling part of it all...

After the final bell rang, I embraced my opponent and shook hands with his corner multiple times. Within a few minutes, I was back in the center of the ring with my arm raised, nodding with pride as a sheepish grin spread and I continued to wonder where the last 9 minutes of boxing came from.

While the details of the fight seem to have instantaneously blurred into a muddled, boxing euphoria, the experience still provided some major learnings. Namely: Always fight within myself. Trust my experience and listen to what my body (during training) and mind (in the ring) are telling me. Box first, brawl second - but don't be afraid to change it up with both.

And, most importantly, when my corner hollers to let my hands go, let my body go with them. I'm a boxer, and once I'm not thinking about or doing anything else, good things can happen.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Limping Into a Fire Drill

I had a post drafted earlier this week that - between the time I finished it and left for the gym and came back to proof and publish it - became completely obsolete.

On the tail end of a grueling workout late Tuesday night, I was informed by a sparring partner that I'd be fighting on the re-scheduled Boston vs. The World card this Sunday. While at face value it's no big deal for an amateur boxer to fight on a few days notice, this came as considerable shock to me, namely because:
  • I haven't had a sanctioned bout in 9 months and figured I'd have a set, upcoming date to work towards to officially return to competition
  • I've been alternating between "good" and "bad" weeks the past month, getting erratic sparring while fighting a few nagging injuries and the urge to overtrain
  • I have no shot at making 152 lbs. come weigh-in
  • The fight will be tape delayed on NESN, so it's not exactly an under-the-radar event to be thrown onto
So despite the frustrations and aches and's go time. Time to dig deep, take everything I've got, and bring it all in the ring for 3 rounds.

And, after a quick audit, it seems like things might be falling into place more than my physical state earlier this week led me to believe:
  • I haven't fought in 9 months, but I've been training again for more than 3 and am more than ready to jump back in feet-first (with everything going on in and out of the gym, when will things be "perfect" and ready?)
  • I'm in the midst of a "great" week, with about 15 rounds of sparring and confidence-building results to ride into my pre-fight recovery mode
  • I'm fighting at a catch weight of 160, which isn't far from what I'm walking around at
  • The fights on NESN. And who doesn't want to be recognized for the months of hard work and sweat equity they've put in at the gym?
So while I'm definitely far from a 100% peak, I'm confident I'm ready to dive into the competitive scene again and am treating this like a pretty significant measuring-stick bout.

But in a way, this is indeed a bit risky since my record's permanent and I'm a not able to be my methodical, uber-prepared self weeks before this fight. Additionally, I'm expecting this 160-lber in the other corner to be significantly bigger than me since I've never fought anywhere near this heavy before.

But life is short and I feel good heading into a few days of rest before fight night. So long as I fight smart and draw from the foundations I have - both the physical base I've begun to reestablish, as well as my years of experience - there is no reason I can't win this fight. As a come-forward-and-pressure fighter, my heart has always been my biggest asset and allowed me to overcome most all shortcomings on the spot - whether that be digging deep for one of my trademark flurries the last 30-seconds or outhustling and outworking a technically superior opponent from bell to bell.

And armed with that, I know Sunday's results will be no different.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cross-Country Detour

I always use metaphors (cliches?) comparing my boxing success to an obstacle-filled road - usually along the lines of "hitting the comeback trail," "the rise to the top," and "climbing the plateau to reach the peak." Well, last week the comparisons materialized, as I traveled to NYC to help my brother load a 14-foot U-Haul with all his belongings and drive across the country to move into his new apartment in Seattle.

While this cross-continent move was an absolutely awesome experience, it didn't bode well for my training. Sure, cross-training was squeezed into the week; I banged out sit-ups and push-ups at every pit stop (yes, seriously), ran on some scenic Washington trails and lifted at my brother's gym. I even got in two Juan Manuel Marquez-esque workouts loading and unloading the truck. (Remember him throwing rocks up and down the mountain before fighting Mayweather? Yeah, it was like that, just with furniture and boxes instead....and minus the whole pee drinking thing.)

But improvisation's not the name of this game. I don't need to move up a weight class or plateau or taper to stay fresh before a bout. I need to get my weight down, work in rounds upon rounds of sparring, and maintain an "aggressive consistency" to adequately prepare for a few high-profile sanctioned bouts next month that will kick off the "busy season."

Now this pace and progress had been happening. And while some may scoff and say missing 7 days of boxing is neglible, well, all I can say is that it's a lifetime for me given the stage I'm at...especially considering that the detour happened in the midst of some fairly substantial happenings, including:
  • Quality sparring, including multiple sessions with a former 112 lb. Puerto Rican national champ, as well as a perennial top-5 U.S. 140 lber
  • Extremely positive feedback from said sparring, ranging from my trainer nudging me that "you look great, you just need to tighten and sharpen that final bit over time," to overmatched gymmates weezing "you don't seem out of all" and "you throw more punches than anyone I've ever moved around with. Ever."
  • Legitimately feeling quicker, stronger and just better with every workout
Something had clicked while I was out this winter and into the first few months of training. Whether a mental block was cleared, or I finally was given the needed time and breath to better digest my in-ring knowledge, or it was nothing other than divine intervention from the Church of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, something just "clicked" and I'm a smoother, smarter, natural boxer. My guard's tighter, my base is lower, I kick my rights out sharper when I return my hand to my chin, I stay in the slot better without falling forward - I just have a new, long list of tangible proof and applications of my years and years of boxing experience.

While this newfound mojo has been making my transition back easier, it's also made it all the more heartbreaking that I still am struggling to balance and manage all of my outside-the-ring obligations.

In the end though, these are just challenges that - like all the others - shall pass and be overcome. I'm hungry, feel good and have far more aspects of my game hitting on all cylinders than I do items on my "to-do" list...which is primarily just my weight. (But seriously. I can't - for the life of me - get back to my fighting weight right now. Is it like a watched pot of boiling water?)

From one road to another, I'm on my way. The path might continue to have twists and turns and be bumpy along the way, but so long as I keep on keepin' on, I know there are big things ahead again.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wandering Aimlessly Down the Comeback Trail

The past few weeks have been an aimless, meandering journey that may or may not be getting me where I need to be. I’m definitely cranking up the intensity and regularity of workouts (especially "doubling up" with an a.m. run plus a p.m. gym workout) but feel like something’s missing. This “something” is probably just momentum. I can't help but feel like I'm laboring through workouts a little more than when I was peaked right before I had my surgery. Maybe it's just needing to build confidence? Regain some in-ring comfort? Or, maybe I just need to whip up a larger batch of my special sauce: swagger.

I definitely could use a touch more of all these. But regardless of what "it" actually is, hopefully I’m not going to be stuck spinning tires until this X factor changes - because when it does, I’m ready to get some traction and peel out in a dust cloud of kick-ass.

My biggest problem being patient with this “work hard and it will click” approach is that it requires a bit of faith that “the process” is working. I have no problem trucking along, but it’s unsettling to go through the motions, make progress in baby steps, and just continue assuming that one morning I’ll glove up and things will be the way they were pre-op - with my feet having that rhythmic bounce, my jab that stinging crispness, that right landing with that clobbering thump that made eyes spin.

But alas, onwards I trudge, trusting that persistence (and about 100 rounds of sparring) will be the glue that makes my body, mind and routine harmoniously “click.”

As I continue to try to hit my proverbial groove, it’s becoming clear that I’m going to have a pretty tangible, conventional set of challenges to overcome. And, because I’m self-conscious about my tone on here, I want to clarify that these are challenges, not complaints. Challenges are encountered but ultimately overcome…but they’re hindrances nonetheless, and until they’re addressed, patience is tried and progress can’t be made.
  • Logistics - My old office was a 10-minute walk from my boxing gym, but now my work-to-gym commute is about 45 minutes. This adds strain schlepping my gear around in crappy weather, makes it more likely I'll just go home first and then run/lift/crosstrain rather than embark on another round-trip commute, and even sometimes interferes with my sleep cycle due to bumping my whole night back an hour or two from running around the greater Boston area. Hey, lost time adds up over the months...
  • Summer - Summer is my busy season. From a baseball league I play in once/week to traveling to remembering the "play" aspect of a work/train/play balance, there seems to always be a scheduling conflict (or a vice) altering plans.
  • Tearing up my face again - I snickered typing this, but hey, I'm a banger. I outwork, outhustle and outgun my opponents. Having a mental block take me out of my element - intentional or not - would be as devastating to my end-result as not being 100% in-shape.
  • Weight - Having fought at 140, I never had problems making 152 for a fight last year, which is where I had my long streak of success. In fact, I'd say the added strength and comfort with my weight was a huge reason for my success. But now? Well if I had a functioning scale that didn't seem to be stuck on 165, I'd actually know how much I weigh... but I'd still probably have anxiety that I'll have a lot of weight to cut in the sauna the week of my next bout - especially since a lot of this new mass is due to me bulking up while I wasn't boxing, rather than just letting myself go. Some definite changes to my weightlifting routines (and maybe, just maybe, my drinking habits) are in order...
And right there, maybe I got to the root of it – whether it’s a lack of urgency or just a consistent flow in my week-to-week training, I seem to be spiraling in a "trap of the week" cycle and am improvising a comeback rather than just executing.

In the end, that will be the difference between success or falling short when the boxing “busy season” starts in September – whether I plow through these challenges and train in a crisp, straight line to the top, or meander through this briar patch of obstacles and let them slow me down.

At the end of the day though, my feet are moving and slowly but surely I'm progressing forward. It’s going to take a lot more than this to keep me from my titles.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Training camp officially has a pulse - and a strong one at that, thanks to some clever time management and the rediscovery of my stubborn, "train now because your opponent's still sleeping" approach.

Back in the flow, I can tell there are (again) some big things ahead for me. Some of you all might not have believed me when I said the same thing this time last year, but, well, look what happened. I've got the TV and newspaper clips to prove what I can do when I just do it, and I have every intention of building on those successes. If anything, it'll be "easier" this time around, if not for experience than for the ability to breathe again at full capacity.

With the intensity cranked up again, I've been reminded that boxing's not just something I do - it's what I do. It's my drive and passion, my love and my greatness. It's the summation of my talents - from God-given tools like strength and stamina to inherited traits (thanks Pops!) like my work ethic and the mental toughness to never be unprepared, to never lose no matter how deep I have to dig.

You can always dig deeper. Always, always always. The moment you lose that mentality is the exact time you become mortal in the ring again.

And while this might sound altruistic, frankly it's just an inexplicable drive I can't push aside for the sake of living "the norm." I'm starting to think it's not a coincidence that boxing fits so seamlessly into the rest of my life. I've still been working tirelessly at work, traveling around NY and New England, catching Red Sox and Celtics games...just living my life. And now that I'm back in the ring, I've been living it more completely.

Life is good and it is full and it is great.

Everything's been rebooted. And while there are still a few issues to hammer out (weight, sparring, strategy among others that I'll detail in my next post) it's safe to say that the comeback's on.

But on second thought, don't call it a comeback. Boxing never left me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Don't Call it a Comeback

The wait is over. And while saying "the comeback's officially on" might seem tired and obvious, on the same note, simply calling it a "relief" or "good to be back" wouldn't do it justice.

This isn't just me resuming training and stepping back into the ring again. This is re-plugging and re-booting a missing aspect of my life. I've missed boxing. Mourned it during the grind the past few months. And while I'm loving my new job (of which the start date coincided with my surgery & start to the boxing hiatus) there still has been something missing from my day-to-day stride. Yes, I'm happy and pain-free and can breathe again. Hell, I can smell again - it's been nothing short of eye-opening realizing how bashed up my face was before they cleaned it out. All has been well...but it hasn't been right.

An X factor has been missing. A call hasn't been answered. My drive feels like it's been wandering and wasted. That certain urgency and "purpose" just hasn't been there.

But for more than a week now, I've dipped my toe back into the water and am ready to go barreling feet-first back into the ring. Note: feet-first, not face-first. That's what landed me under the knife and looking like this:

Yeesh, look at that swollen clown nose. But to think just how poorly I was breathing before (and prone to infections and bleeding and all-around nastiness) my surgery, let alone overcoming it in the ring with an angry opponent and suffocating mouthpiece.

But alas, I'm mo' better; I'm 100% and hungry. But while I've stayed in more than great shape (as always) I've got a long way to go before I'll be ready to compete at a high level. We all know that a boxer can't be judged by his body type or appearance, and that there's no amount of weights, road work and cross-training that can replace "peak boxing shape." You need speed, stamina, timing, that feel and comfort. (For me, that swagger.) I've had layoffs from the sport before, but never one where I need to so completely rebuild myself to get back to the same level. (Lest we forget that I had my surgery just days after a televised bout, a fight for a championship belt and a thrashing of the regional Golden Gloves finalist.) This will not only be a challenge, but an opportunity. And it'll be fun.

I can't wait to get this motor humming again.

So buckle up, folks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sneak Preview

Big news coming later this week, folks. Dusting off the blog and...well, you'll see later this week. ; )

Don't blink, ya might miss it...